When Obama Said, “Be the Change,” Did He Mean, “Do It Yourself?”Posted: August 15, 2011
This morning, President Obama set out on a three-day “bus tour” of five tiny towns in three Midwestern states before he returns to his comfort zone among the wealthy elites on Martha’s Vineyard for a ten-day vacation.
According to the National Journal, each of the towns on the tour is in an area that is doing very well economically.
The best part about these towns? They’re doing darn well in the face of the country’s worst economic decline since the Great Depression.
Where the country faces an unemployment rate stubbornly stuck in the 9-point range, the four counties Obama will visit top out at 7.7 percent in Henry County, Ill. The lowest, in Winnishiek County, Iowa, is a mere 5.9 percent.
Part of the reason the town mayors all said they escaped the perils of the recession is that none relied heavily on hard-hit industries like construction. Most have diverse industries, split between a small amount of manufacturing and typical Midwestern agriculture. So when Obama goes to “discuss ways to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and accelerate hiring in communities and towns across the nation,” he’ll be talking to success stories. As cameras flood in, they won’t find closed-down plants or houses with foreclosure signs; they’ll find picturesque small farms, and, in Alpha, Ill., an 8-acre corn maze.
However, a difficult issue for the Obama is that the towns he will visit are
overwhelmingly white; so white that 2010 census figures suggest Obama will be the only black person in Atkinson, Ill., when he visits on Wednesday. That image may be neutral among, say, white, working-class voters, with whom Obama has struggled in recent elections. It won’t look as good to the African-American community, which has been particularly hard hit by the recession.
African-American unemployment hovers at 16.2 percent, the highest for any ethnic group and double the rate of unemployment for whites. While Obama spends the beginning of the week in three cities with white populations over 93 percent, the Congressional Black Caucus will be hosting job fairs, seminars and job readiness workshops in struggling cities over the August recess, hoping to connect unemployed African-Americans with employers in Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The bus tour may not sit well with the CBC, either: Obama will not be attending any of the Congressional Black Caucus events.
That’s pretty troubling, although not surprising. You’d think if the taxpayers are covering the expenses, the President could at least talk to some people who are suffering the worst consequences of the Great Recession.
Jay Leno got off a couple of middling-funny cracks about the trip and the U.S. economy last night.
Leno: President Obama is off on his three-state bus tour this week. I believe the three states are Confusion, Delusion and Desperation.
Leno: More fallout from that Standard & Poor’s credit downgrading of the U.S.. Today England, France and Germany unfriended us on Facebook.
Leno: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will stay on with President Obama and not join the private sector. Thanks to his economic policies there are no private sector jobs.
Okay, I thought you could use a little comic relief. Now back to Obama’s road trip.
The head of the RNC Reince Priebus followed Obama to his first stop, Cannon Falls, MN, where he made his own failed attempt at humor, referring to the President’s trip as “Obama’s Debt-End Tour.” Frankly, I don’t get it. But Mitt Romney had a better one, the “Magical Misery Tour.”
None of the articles I’ve read say whether the President will actually ride on a bus from place to place, but I did learn that the Secret Service recently purchased two buses that will be used on the trip. The White House insists this is not a campaign swing, but an “official trip,” so we taxpayers will be picking up the tab.
The first stop on the bus tour this morning was in Cannon Falls, MN, where he gave a speech similar to the one he gave in Michigan the other day. In that speech, which advisers David Plouffe and William Daley are said to be very enthused about, he urged the audience to convince Congress to pass legislation that Obama favors.
And if you agree with me –- it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent — you’ve got to let Congress know. You’ve got to tell them you’ve had enough of the theatrics. You’ve had enough of the politics. Stop sending out press releases. Start passing some bills that we all know will help our economy right now. That’s what they need to do — they’ve got to hear from you.
Then he gave his usual list of issues that aren’t likely to do much to solve our problems–patent reform, trade deals, payroll tax holiday, unemployment, infrastructure investment, and job training for returning veterans–nothing big, new, or exciting.
He didn’t offer any new ideas about how to create jobs or grow the economy in Cannon Falls either. He just
…lambasted Congress for failing to act on some of the smaller-scale measures that he’s proposed, pointing to Republicans on Capitol Hill as the largest obstacle standing in the way of economic growth and making it clear that the White House isn’t about to accept all of the blame for the nation’s economic woes.
He also tried a new line–I guess it was intended to be humorous:
…riffing off the pejorative Republicans have used to describe his healthcare plan. “I have no problem with people saying Obama cares. I do care,” he said. “If the other side wants to be the folks that don’t care, that’s fine with me. I do care.”
Oh brother! I think he needs a new speech writer. And then he gave them the “do it yourself” line.
He urged the 300 or so attendees at the event to call their representative in Congress, saying he was “enlisting” them in a fight to help push forward his economic initiatives.
Because the man who holds one of the most powerful offices on Earth can’t deal with Congress himself? This is ridiculous! If Obama can’t start doing his job and stop asking middle class and working class people to do it for him, he should step aside and let someone else take over.
Then it was on to Decorah, Iowa this afternoon, where he told the audience that
he hopes members of Congress have a “wake-up call” and come back to Washington ready to work for the American people in September.
Speaking at a farm in northeast Iowa, the Democratic president said voters never intended to have a broken government when they put Republicans in charge of the House and created a divided government last November. He challenged Republican lawmakers to hear the frustration of voters and to be willing to compromise on an economic agenda.
But doesn’t Obama need to hear voters’ frustration too? How can he do that if he chooses to visit only five tiny towns in good economic shape and then heads off to Martha’s Vineyard to hang with the rich and famous?
Emptywheel had an interesting take on the President’s new stump speech today. She noted that Obama and his advisers have apparently decided not to highlight most of the administration policies that may have actually helped the economy!
Significantly, Obama made no mention of saving the auto industry, no mention of health insurance reform, no mention of defending US companies against unfair foreign competitors, all of which could have arguably fit this theme….
The point is, in the speech Plouffe-Daley point to as precisely the tack they want to take, Obama didn’t even claim clear credit for the jobs his policies had the most direct role in creating, which would have created the largest contrast with Republicans….
That’s a disavowal of a policy choice, one that has been successful in the past, but one that also might disrupt the claims of a top government official who believes that, “It would be political folly to make the argument that government spending equals jobs.” It’s a decision (presumably conscious, particularly given that Obama has claimed credit for this in the past) not to mention how successful the most meaningful job creation policy, government investments, would be.
Unbelievable! So Obama is willing to keep quiet about the few things he has done to help the economy and create jobs in order to portray himself as a conservative! He even bragged to the Cannon Falls audience that he had wanted to cut “entitlements,” but the Republicans refused. Does this man actually want to be reelected? He was presumably elected to do a job that requires leadership. If he doesn’t want to lead, he should resign right now.